DStv Witnesses Global Growth while South African Pay-TV Subscribers Decline

Leafis Mazviro

DStv increased its customer count — both in terms of year-end and 90-day active subscribers from outside South Africa while inside South Africa the company registered a 1.8% loss from its pay-Tv from South African subscribers between 31 March 2022 and 31 March 2023 according to the company’s recent annual reports.

The recent report shows that, outside of South Africa, MultiChoice increased its customer count — both in terms of year-end and 90-day active subscribers. Year-end subscribers in the Rest of Africa (RoA) grew from 8.48 million to 9.29 million, a 10% jump.

On a 90-day active basis, RoA subscribers increased by 11%, going from just over 12.79 million to more than 14.20 million.

Although DStv managed to increase its subscribers around the continent, DStv lost 1.8% of its pay-Tv service from South African subscribers between 31 March 2022 and 31 March 2023.

The latest report shows that its subscribers dropped from 8.16 million to 8.016 million between these two dates — a reduction of roughly 144,000 or 1.8%.

In the middle of 2021 and 2022, the decline was much lower — from 8.177 million to 8.16 million — a loss of about 17,000 year-end subscribers.

While the latest decline is noteworthy, DStv emphasizes a 90-day active subscriber number as the primary measurement of the size of its customer base.

It first introduced this method in 2020, reporting the number of subscribers active within three months instead of the number of paying customers on the last day of its financial year.

Nevertheless, it has included its year-end subscriber numbers in each report.
DStv’s 90-day active subscribers in South Africa increased from 9 million to 9.3 million between the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 financial years, a jump of 3%.

The company said the actual 90-day active subscribers added were around 290,000.

However, out of the three main segments that make up its customer base, only the entry-level Mass-market customers grew— climbing 10% from 4.9 million to 5.3 million.

These consumers are subscribed to entry-level packages like EasyView, Access, and Family, which are much cheaper than higher-end bouquets in the Mid-market and Premium segments.

Each of these segments saw a reduction of about 100,000 90-day active subscribers.
It is possible that some of these subscribers migrated to cheaper packages in the other segments, rather than dropping DStv altogether.

In the Mid-Market segment — which includes Compact and Commercial packages — 90-day active subscribers dropped from 2.8 million to 2.7 million, a 3% decline.

On the Premium and Compact Plus packages that fall under the Premium segment, DStv lost 6% of its customers, resulting in a drop from 1.4 million to 1.3 million.

While the broadcaster has been bleeding customers in this top-end segment for several years, this drop comes close to its worst yet — the 8% decline from its 2020/2021 financial year.

However, in that instance, Covid-19 was believed to have played a role in consumers’ cost-cutting.

The charts below show how DStv’s 90-day active subscriber base changed between its 2022 and 2023 financial years.
MultiChoice said load-shedding was a major reason for the disconnect between its 90-day and year-end subscriber numbers.

“There was a noticeable increase in churn when load-shedding reaches stage 4 and above, even when consumers have disposable income,” it stated.

It said the higher 90-day active subscriber figure shows customers still value the DStv product, while the 140,000 declines in year-end subscriber numbers showed customers were more selective when they signed up to avoid periods of excessive load-shedding.

The overall result of the above is a 5% decline in the blended average revenue per user (ARPU) of all DStv customers from R269 to R256.

Despite acquiring customers in the Mass-market, DStv’s ARPU of R96 in this segment has also come down.

This suggests a trend of customers within this segment who are downgrading from the more expensive entry-level packages to cheaper ones.

However, the RoA division generated only around half the revenue of the South African business — R22.95 billion against R41.96 billion —and a fraction of the trading profit — R898 million versus R8.49 billion.

Despite having more subscribers than the South African business, RoA contributed a blended ARPU of $7.3 (R136), 47% less than the South African ARPU.

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